updated 2/12/2008 11:21:29 AM ET 2008-02-12T16:21:29

Guests: Lanny Davis, Chris Kofinis, Eugene Robinson, Peter Fenn

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  The Barack Obama campaign picks up four more states and the Virgin Islands while the Hillary Clinton campaign makes a change near the top. 

Welcome to the show. 

Can Obama legitimately claim underdog status at this point?  The all-important race for delegates is closer than ever after Obama won the Louisiana primary and the Nebraska, Washington state and Maine caucuses this weekend.  Amid a less-than-ideal electoral news, Hillary Clinton‘s campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle stepped down on Sunday.  She was replaced by Mrs. Clinton‘s former chief of staff, Maggie Williams.  Remember her? 

Amid all this action, the New York senator expressed confidence on the trail today in Maryland, the site of one of three uphill battles on her campaign calendar tomorrow.  In a moment, Clinton friend and supporter Lanny Davis joins us with view of the neck and neck contest as it stands right now. 

On the Republican side meanwhile, things have gotten interestingly more difficult, somewhat, anyway, for John McCain, since Mitt Romney withdrew.  Mike Huckabee won the Kansas caucus and the Louisiana primary and disputed the razor thin margin awarded McCain in the state of Washington. 

After President Bush announced his faith that Senator McCain is indeed a true conservative, Jeb Bush today, his brother, endorsed McCain.  So what more will it take for the Republican Party to rally around its presumptive nominee? 

And the John Edwards sweepstakes continue.  Senator Clinton solicited the Edwards endorsement last Thursday in a face-to-face meeting.  Senator Barack Obama was scheduled to do the same today until that meeting was postponed.  What does Edwards want in return for his endorsement?  We‘ll talk to former communications director, Chris Kofinis, in just a minute. 

But we begin tonight with the ever-tighter race for delegates in the race for the Democratic nomination.  Joining us now, someone watching carefully, Clinton campaign supporter and former White House special council to President Clinton, Lanny Davis. 

Lanny, welcome. 

LANNY DAVIS, CLINTON CAMPAIGN SUPPORTER:  Hi. 

CARLSON:  So Patti Solis Doyle out.  Maggie Williams, a controversial figure, in.  The campaign, borrowing money from the candidate herself.  All signs, if you stand back a couple feet, that point to a campaign in real trouble. 

DAVIS:  Well, you know, I‘m always able to give you a half full glass. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

DAVIS:  .and so let me give you the half full. 

CARLSON:  Do your best. 

DAVIS:  Since last Tuesday, within four days, 100,000 people contributed $10 million in cash. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

DAVIS:  For us, for Obama, that‘s not that unusual because of the networks.  This is huge for us.  And the money is still pouring in.  The second thing that is good news is that every time that Hillary has been counted out with a rush of media and especially momentum by the great campaign that Barack Obama was running, coming out of Iowa, the wave came in, hit a wall. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

DAVIS:  .and she won in New Hampshire.  And after South Carolina, a huge wave and look what happened in California and Massachusetts. 

CARLSON:  Well, perhaps - no, no. 

DAVIS:  So there‘s a pattern here.  

CARLSON:  I‘ll agree with you there.  I want to talk for a minute about how she‘s building that counter-wave, because she does it always the same way every time.  But before that, very quickly, let me ask you a question that is suddenly, I think, more germane than it was.  And that‘s about her tax returns.  Now that she is the single biggest donor to her own campaign, don‘t we have a right to know where her money comes from.  She, unlike Barack Obama, has not released her tax returns.  I don‘t know why.  What‘s the explanation for that? 

DAVIS:  I haven‘t talked to her and I don‘t know why.  Either - I‘m sure there‘s nothing to hide.  She‘s not extremely wealthy. 

CARLSON:  (INAUDIBLE) 

DAVIS:  She said that she will release her tax returns after the conventions and that‘s the position that I‘ve heard her say and I don‘t know any other explanation. 

CARLSON:  Now I know you‘re speaking for yourself and not the campaign, but. 

DAVIS:  Right. 

CARLSON:  .your characterization of a person who is able to strike a

check for $5 million is not being extremely wealthy.  Do you want to stick

by that? 

DAVIS:  Compared to me, she‘s extremely wealthy. 

CARLSON:  Now, Hillary Clinton, as you pointed out, has come back, in ways that really shocked those of us who watch.  I think the New Hampshire primary is a great example.  She‘s done is by doing the same device, always the same way, by saying to her supporters, to Democrats, I‘m the victim.  I‘m being put upon.  They‘re being mean to me.  They did this because I‘m a woman. 

DAVIS:  No. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  She did in her Senate campaign.  You saw her do it during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.  You saw her do it after the Iowa caucuses and you‘re seeing her do it now.  She said last night to Katie Couric, essentially, I‘m getting bad coverage because I‘m a woman. 

And my question is: is it plausible that Hillary Clinton, the feminist hero, a woman who directed the slime machine that attacked all of her husband‘s hapless girlfriends, they‘re sluts and psychos, she‘s a feminist hero now? 

DAVIS:  You know a never buy in to the premises of your question, though, I love you, but let me give you my premise. 

There is a base in the Democratic Party going back to Franklin Roosevelt.  In large states that base turns out and defeats Barack Obama.  He appeals to a different base.  It‘s still an unimpressive base.  But the base that Hillary has appealed to, statistically, are blue collar workers. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

DAVIS:  .senior citizens, Latinos and what we now know are women, which is a new added factor.  That‘s a base and in a large state is going to win.  And a small state that depends upon liberal activists, well-organized Barack Obama wins those states. 

CARLSON:  But wait a second, I mean. 

DAVIS:  Plus huge support from the African-American (INAUDIBLE). 

CARLSON:  You added - well, that depends on how you define huge. 

Obama is winning - majority by (INAUDIBLE). 

DAVIS:  Eighty, ninety percent is pretty huge. 

CARLSON:  Hillary Clinton won women by 20 points on Super Tuesday, OK, overall in all those states.  And the average was 20 points.  That‘s a lot.  And that makes me think that this idea that she‘s the victim, that the men, and particularly in the press, are being mean to her. 

DAVIS:  I don‘t agree with that. 

CARLSON:  .is not accidental.  This is part of a campaign to gin up sympathy.  And I wonder. 

DAVIS:  I don‘t think she said that. 

CARLSON:  Do we have to sit back in the press and take an ethics lecture from someone who‘s run what liberals described as a race-bait, southern strategy to attack Obama?  I mean, isn‘t it a bit much for her to be lecturing us? 

DAVIS:  I didn‘t see the interview but I don‘t think that you interpreted correctly.  It‘s not the Hillary that I know.  She‘s talking issues.  She‘s talking about the mortgage crisis.  She‘s talking health care.  She‘s never portrayed herself as a victim and if you heard it that way, and I respect. 

CARLSON:  Her spokesmen have been out last couple of days saying she‘s a victim. 

DAVIS:  I don‘t believe that‘s the case. 

CARLSON:  The manner being mean to me, the manner being mean to me. 

DAVIS:  Those are not spokesmen. 

CARLSON:  They‘re sexist.  No, there‘s a pattern here.  She keeps saying.  There‘s a pattern here. 

DAVIS:  That is. 

CARLSON:  And the pattern is they‘re being mean to the woman. 

DAVIS:  No, that‘s not her.  That‘s not her message. 

CARLSON:  Well, that‘s what she said. 

DAVIS:  And I‘m just telling you that her message is about economic issues that have made the Democratic Party a great party.  That is not where Barack Obama has been.  He‘s been at a higher level, inspirational message, and where‘s the beef is the question that she‘s asking on economic issues.  And if she gets into the big state primaries, that‘s where the wall comes out. 

CARLSON:  OK. 

DAVIS:  But I just don‘t think she is the victim. 

CARLSON:  Well, let me ask you. 

DAVIS:  .type of candidate.  I don‘t think that‘s. 

CARLSON:  Oh, I think she is and has always been.  But let me ask you a question, this is important, I think, because of the conversation that is going on in America over the past couple of months with Hillary Clinton, and it is: is it possible to be a stern critic of Hillary Clinton to say, you know, I reject not only her style of politics but the substance of it, and not be a sexist?  Because the implication by. 

DAVIS:  Of course. 

CARLSON:  .a lot of your supporters is, if you don‘t like Hillary, you‘ve got a problem with strong women.  It‘s the boys‘ club that won‘t allow her in.  She said that in a speech to Wesley.  I want to join the boys‘ club.  Maybe you just don‘t like Hillary Clinton.  Is that fair? 

DAVIS:  I absolutely don‘t think that you‘re a sexist if you can disagree or dislike Hillary Clinton.  We feel a little bit sensitive that when we talk about Barack Obama‘s record and we‘re accurate. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

DAVIS:  .that people claim we‘re playing a race card, which is also unfair.  Neither one of these candidates deserve either one of those. 

CARLSON:  Really?  Is it unfair when Hillary Clinton said, I believe yesterday, yes, Barack Obama won Louisiana, the black people voted for him.  She said that pointblank.  She said there are a lot of proud black voters who voted for him.  So do you think that‘s why he won is because black people mindlessly follow the black candidate? 

DAVIS:  If Barack Obama says statistically that Hillary Clinton‘s wall of support has been women voters, he‘s not being a sexist.  If Hillary Clinton notes very, very understandably that African-Americans have swung in large numbers to support a fellow African-American just as I supported Joe Lieberman, proud that he was Jewish, just as Jack Kennedy got 75 percent of the Catholics, there is nothing wrong with that. 

CARLSON:  I know what you mean.  When I see a white man running for office, I don‘t even check the party affiliation, I just say, oh my god, he‘s a white man.  I am, too.  I think I‘ll vote him. 

DAVIS:  White men are not an ethnic group that (INAUDIBLE) tribal loyalty. 

CARLSON:  Not tribal loyalty, OK, that makes sense, that makes sense. 

DAVIS:  I would say the Catholic vote in 1960 voted for Jack Kennedy and nothing wrong with that. 

CARLSON:  OK.  Very quickly.  You will pledge to me that Hillary Clinton will stop lecturing the rest of us on a moral inferiority and her - as this feminist icon? 

DAVIS:  Can I just everybody hears things through different prisms.  I‘ve known Hillary Clinton since the law school days of the ‘60s.  She‘s been a kind-hearted, fun, down-to-earth, great friend.  She doesn‘t play the victim and she cares about issues.  She‘s been dedicated to public service.  If you got to know her, you would feel differently about it because she‘s a great person, a great senator and will make a great president. 

CARLSON:  I‘m not saying she‘s not a great person.  I‘m not a Hillary hater and I never have been. 

DAVIS:  All right. 

CARLSON:  I just resent the idea and a lot of her followers believe this, a lot in the press and a lot in the blogs, that if you disagree with her, you are somehow are sexist. 

DAVIS:  No. 

CARLSON:  And I think that‘s one of the dumbest things I‘ve ever heard. 

DAVIS:  So did I. 

CARLSON:  And yet I reserve the right to tell the truth about Hillary Clinton and I‘ll never give up that. 

DAVIS:  I don‘t know a single Hillary person. 

CARLSON:  You don‘t - OK.  Turn on your computer. 

DAVIS:  .who thinks that way. 

CARLSON:  OK.  Right.  I don‘t know one who doesn‘t.  But I appreciate your coming on, Lanny. 

DAVIS:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  You may be the one. 

Hillary Clinton says she‘s already prepared for whatever the Republicans throw at her.  Been there, done that, she says, but Barack Obama has never gone up against a formidable Republican candidate.  In fact, I don‘t think he‘s ever had a negative attack ad run against them.  Will he be able to handle a general election? 

Plus Mike Huckabee wins big in Kansas and Louisiana over the weekend.  He says he‘s not dropping out of the race until somebody gets 1,191 delegates.  And most likely, that won‘t be him.  So why is Huckabee still staying in this race?

You‘re watching MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Hillary Clinton sat down for a meeting with John Edwards and tonight it was supposed to be Barack Obama‘s turn, but they‘re meeting was cancelled.  Will it be rescheduled or has Edwards already made up his mind to go with Hillary?  If you can believe it, we‘ll talk to his former communications director coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “60 MINUTES”)

STEVE KROFT, HOST, CBS‘ “60 MINUTES”:  Explain to me how you‘re an underdog. 

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  Well, she continues to have enormous name recognition.  I think there‘s a lot of affection for the Clinton brand among Democrats.  And, you know, she still has more institutional support.  So, you know, part of what we have to do is to, you know, score a convincing knockout.  We‘re like the challenger and she‘s like the champ.  And you know, you don‘t win on points. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  So Clinton and Obama both want to be the leader of the free world, they just don‘t want anybody to think they have a sure shot at getting it.  It‘s one thing to root for the underdog, it‘s quite another to root for the overdog.  Nobody wants to be that guy.  So with the race as close as it can get, can either Hillary or Obama stake a legitimate claim to that red cape and position known as underdog. 

Joining us now “Washington Post” columnist Eugene Robinson and Democratic strategist Peter Fenn. 

Gene, I mean, I don‘t think there‘s - I don‘t think Senator Obama‘s

lying or anything.  He‘s not the underdog.  I mean, when was the last night

I mean after tomorrow, Hillary Clinton won‘t have - she‘ll - well, that will be eight in a row, I think she‘s - I mean assuming. 

EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST:  It‘ll be a bunch in a row if she loses tomorrow. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

ROBINSON:  Who wants to be in the lead in this race?  That is a very dangerous place to be this year. 

CARLSON:  Well, that‘s true. 

ROBINSON:  And so everybody, you know, you want the perception that you‘re coming from behind, that you‘re the scrappy underdog and that it was unexpected.  You know, you know when I knew that the Obama - that Obama would win the Maine caucuses, when I started getting e-mails from the Obama campaign explaining how, oh we‘re so far behind in Maine.  Oh you know, she has all the advantages. 

At that point I said, I think they know something.  I think they‘re going to win but it‘s the perception skills. 

CARLSON:  Well, it‘s just because caucuses - I‘m amazed by the degree which Hillary Clinton has talked down every single caucus.  She‘s won one, Nevada, and that was a legitimate caucus according to her.  But every other caucus you see her, where her husband getting up there, and saying, her husband said this the other, he said, you know, you know why she doesn‘t win?  Because decent working people are working too hard building this country into the great place it is to actually caucus. 

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Everybody‘s got to have an explanation for everything here, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  But attacking. 

FENN:  The bottom line is - my line is it, this begins - a lot of this begins to be laughable.  And Barack Obama saying that he is the underdog is quite laughable at this point.  And - but it plays into the strategy of I‘m the change agent, I‘m going up against the big dogs. 

CARLSON:  But why has he won all the caucus?  What‘s your theory?  I mean you‘ve been around this long. 

FENN:  You know, a couple of things.  First of all, he‘s got young people turning out like crazy in these caucuses.  And in most cases there are twice as many people voting, sometimes as many as three times as many people that have voted four years ago.  And these are young people. 

Second thing I will say is that they held a brand in twos team, which is the organizing guys for Obama had done a superb job from the beginning.  You know they had people in Idaho, they had people in Minnesota, in North Dakota.  They were all over the maps. 

ROBINSON:  Exactly. 

FENN:  And they‘ve done a superb of pulling. 

CARLSON:  Do you agree with that? 

ROBINSON:  The Obama ground game is phenomenal.  And that is. 

CARLSON:  Just technical politics. 

ROBINSON:  Absolutely.  It is the - it‘s not an untold story.  But it can‘t be told enough at this point. 

CARLSON:  That‘s the - I remember talking - I was talking about this a year ago and saying that, you know, the one advantage Hillary has it, she has the most sophisticated, most seasoned. 

ROBINSON:  Right. 

CARLSON:  .campaign consultants anybody could ever had. 

ROBINSON:  And that was supposed to be a great advantage for her.  But you know, she has—I mean I think her ground operation has been outclassed by Obama... 

FENN:  And I was - absolutely.  I was on those folks who said, you know, one of the advantages that Hillary Clinton has is seasoned people, people who‘ve been through this stuff before and that they‘re the pros and that the new guys on the block are going to have a hell of a tough time, and the new guys on the block did superbly and are doing superbly on those caucuses. 

CARLSON:  In the end, do you think she can convince enough women that the mean media is against her because she‘s female to win their sympathy? 

ROBINSON:  Well. 

CARLSON:  And their votes? 

ROBINSON:  I mean, in the end, she‘s got to convince enough Ohions and Texans. 

CARLSON:  Right. 

ROBINSON:  .that are. 

CARLSON:  She‘s a micro-targeter, don‘t you think?  I mean it‘s not - she never goes broad, she goes small. 

ROBINSON:  Well, you know, I mean what Lanny was saying earlier about the base, I mean, we can identify the groups that she‘s going to go after and women certainly are first among those groups.  And you know, I don‘t know what‘s going to happen, Tucker.  I don‘t know if she can pull it off with the Obama. 

CARLSON:  She‘s the same old stick.  Every single time, every time. 

They‘re being mean to me.  I mean, come on. 

FENN:  They‘re not being - no.  This isn‘t micro now, this is macro.  I mean she has got to win the big states.  She has got to win Ohio, got to win Pennsylvania and got to win Texas.  If she doesn‘t win those three states, she‘s going to be in deep trouble.  I mean - and she, you know, she may be able to throw a political. 

CARLSON:  What about Virginia tomorrow?  We‘ve got. 

FENN:  Not a chance in America she‘s going to win Virginia.  No way.  You‘ve got - look, right now, she has got - she‘s in deep trouble with suburban voters, with higher educated, higher income folks that go out and get all worked up.  And in this environment, it‘s hard to find an Obama person around here.  But they‘re out there. 

CARLSON:  Absolutely. 

FENN:  And I won‘t tell you - excuse, Hillary person. 

CARLSON:  But Washington, D.C., it‘s got young voters, black voters and rich white liberal voters, and that‘s Obama. 

FENN:  But I will say this, and I said this a long time, that every time we start to say that this is all in a box, these folks are fluid, they‘re having trouble making up their minds.  A lot of people I know who I‘m talking to have to vote on Tuesday, but tomorrow are not quite ready yet.  They‘re really - they like them both and this is still fluid.  This is baby, I think it‘s not over. 

CARLSON:  If anybody can pull it off, it‘s Hillary Clinton.  I don‘t think there‘s any doubt about that if anybody can.  Don‘t rest easy.  Just kidding. 

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are deadlock.  It‘s not my fight.  The deadlock for the Democratic nomination, could Nancy Pelosi and Al Gore sway the vote by announcing an endorsement of Barack Obama?  Maybe so. 

Plus score one for John McCain and then one for Mike Huckabee.  Both picked up big endorsements from leading conservatives today.  Will it have any effect on the race for the nomination?  Or is that race over? 

This is MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE ®, ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  Last week the national media tried to say well, the election is over.  And the nomination is all secured.  Someone forgot to tell me that because I decided that until somebody gets 1191 delegates by the rules that have been designed by the very party bosses who now want to shut it down, they said that‘s what it took to win. 

Ladies and gentlemen, until somebody gets that, we are in this race for you and for every other conservative American. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Former governor Mike Huckabee.  He marches on.  But where is he going?  Joining us now is the senior adviser to the Huckabee campaign, former Arkansas senator, Tim Hutchinson. 

Senator, thanks a lot for coming on. 

TIM HUTCHINSON, HUCKABEE CAMPAIGN SR. ADVISOR:  Hi, Tucker.  How are you? 

CARLSON:  I‘m great.  Where - and I‘m amazed, like everybody else who‘s watching this race, at the enduring nature of the Huckabee campaign.  What‘s his destination? 

HUTCHINSON:  What‘s his destination? 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

HUTCHINSON:  1191.  The goal is the nomination.  You know, every time the experts call Governor Huckabee and say, you know, just throw in the towel, it has been a good game, you ran a good race, now call it over, he declines.  And I don‘t think that quit is in his DNA.  And he just keeps on and he feels very, very strongly that the voters out there and the primaries that have yet to be held, they deserve to have a choice.  They deserve for their vote to count. 

CARLSON:  So I have seen contrasting or opposing views on whether or not it is statistically possible for Governor Huckabee to get the nomination.  Obviously you‘ve done the math.  It is, you believe? 

HUTCHINSON:  Well, it‘s very daunting, yes.  The votes are still there.  So that Governor Huckabee could win the delegates to actually win the nomination outright.  Of course, the other way to look at this is that for Senator McCain to win the nomination outright, he‘s got to get between, I think, almost 45 percent of the remaining delegates.  So there are several different way this thing can go.  But it‘s not game set, match yet. 

CARLSON:  What do you think the effect on the Republican Party is of this?  A lot of people who follow the Republican politics thought it was over last week after Governor Romney dropped out.  I mean do you think this pushes the party in a more conservative direction?  Will it be a backlash against Governor Huckabee?  What‘s the effect? 

HUTCHINSON:  Well, certainly at this point there‘s not been any backlash.  These two candidates, the remaining, those who are still standing, are the two that have run the most positive campaigns.  They have had the most dignified and civil discourse between them and the healthiest debate.  So as long as it maintains that tone, I don‘t think it‘s negative for the party.  And certainly the—I think the outcome in Louisiana and Kansas shows that there is an awful lot of Republican voters who don‘t think it‘s over yet.  And they want to continue to let their voices be heard. 

And there clearly are some very clear policy differences between Governor Huckabee and Senator McCain and this is a means by which those issues can continue to get a very fair airing. 

CARLSON:  Well, the moment I will believe for certain that Mike Huckabee really believes he can win the nomination will be the moment that he—he defines himself against John McCain a little bit more clearly.  Why hasn‘t he said some of the things—maybe not in as nasty way but that Governor Romney said, you know, look, he is liberal on immigration, I‘m not, or he‘s a liberal on taxes and I‘m not.  McCain/Feingold, I wouldn‘t vote for that. 

If you catch my point, when is he going to go after McCain a little bit? 

HUTCHINSON:  Well, I think he‘s outlined very clearly, Tucker, the differences that he has—serious policy differences he has with Senator McCain on things like the human life amendment, things like McCain/Feingold and on and on the list goes.  He doesn‘t have to do that in a way that is going to destroy and tear down the Republican Party. 

So the goal is to present voters an alternative, to present them a choice, to give them an alternative conservative who‘s authentic and who doesn‘t have his job inside Washington, inside the beltway.  And I think it is working.  It clearly worked in Louisiana.  It clearly worked in Kansas. 

CARLSON:  It‘s—are you surprised? 

HUTCHINSON:  No.  I saw that as I look back over the primaries since the beginning that Senator McCain was winning delegates, a lot of delegates with a plurality of votes.  They‘re—less than 10 percent of those primaries that he got over 50 percent of the votes in.  So when it became a one-on-one contest it didn‘t surprise me to see that a lot of conservatives were gravitating to Governor Huckabee and he is just an absolutely incredible campaigner.  Very likable. 

CARLSON:  He certainly is.  He‘s excellent, I think, just as an observer.  Do you think McCain resents it?  I mean, kind of, sort of time to give him the nomination probably from his point of view. 

HUTCHINSON:  He - well, yes, those are the ones calling saying please drop out.  They are the McCain supporters.  But there - we‘ll see what happens in Virginia tomorrow.  And there‘s a lot of big states out there yet.  You have Texas and Ohio yet to go.  Mississippi, some very favorable terrain.  And until someone gets 1191 delegates this is still a contest. 

CARLSON:  Senator, I really appreciate your coming on.  Thanks a lot. 

HUTCHINSON:  Tucker, good to visit with you. 

CARLSON:  Former senator Tim Hutchinson of Arkansas. 

President Bush, meanwhile, John McCain a true conservative.  Jeb Bush calls him a patriot and a devoted conservative leader.  Gary Bauer endorsed him, too, on conservative grounds.  Will other conservatives buy it? 

You‘re watching MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

CARLSON:  President Bush has made some controversial claims over the last several years, but in his support of Senator John McCain, it is going to be a pretty tough sell to some conservatives.  Listen to this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Is John McCain a true conservative? 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Absolutely.  I know him well.  I know his convictions.  I know the principles that drive him.  And no doubt in my mind he is a true conservative.  He is very strong on national defense.  He‘s tough fiscally.  He believes the tax cuts ought to be permanent.  He is pro-life.  His principles are sound and solid, as far as I‘m concerned. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Back again, “Washington Post” columnist Eugene Robinson and Democratic strategist Peter Fenn.  Now, Peter, I have said for many years, I don‘t think Bush is terribly conservative in a principled way, but a lot of people disagree with me and a lot of Republican primary voters definitely disagree with me.  They revere Bush.  They think he‘s very conservative.  I think that endorsement matters. 

FENN:  I think any endorsement he gets right now should matter.  He‘s losing all the elections out there.  This is a strategy, a strange one, win by losing.  He‘s losing to Huckabee.

CARLSON:  Do you know a single person who thinks McCain won‘t get the nomination?

FENN:  No, unless something happens, Mount Vesuvius blows. 

CARLSON:  Rights, so there is this weird—

FENN:  I think one of the things that is really tough right now for all these folks is trying to make him into something that he‘s not.  When he talked about making the tax cuts permanent, these are the very tax cuts he voted against, you know, when they first came up.

The other point I would make on this is Huckabee is drawing these distinctions between a constitutional amendment to prohibit abortion, a constitutional amendment against gay marriage, which he supports, which McCain does not support.  Folks out there get this, Tucker.  That‘s why he‘s getting so many votes with so little money, is that the true conservatives are voting for Mike Huckabee or, in some case, Ron Paul out in Washington State.

CARLSON:  Fewer than we‘d like.  But in the end, there is—this is, it seems to me, useful for the Republican party to figure out what it believes.  After eight years in power, I think they‘ve kind of forgotten who they are, and this is important, I think, for them.  But, in the end, they‘re still not going to vote for Hillary Clinton over John McCain.

ROBINSON:  I guess that‘s true.  The question is how enthusiastic are they—

CARLSON:  Does that matter? 

ROBINSON:  It does, I think actually. 

CARLSON:  Because they won‘t actually show up, otherwise?

ROBINSON:  If there is a lot of enthusiasm, more people show up.  They give more money.  You know, the—you have a better chance of winning if you can get the base or get the party excited about the nominee.  I mean, that‘s—you know, that‘s pretty evident.  Sure, most Republicans I think will in the end vote for John McCain. 

I think one danger for John McCain in this process of redefining himself as the conservative he says he always was, but he didn‘t vote that way, is that‘s not where the country is on a lot of these issues.  McCain‘s great strength is this cross-party appeal at least to independents, the maverick straight talk thing.  If you subsume that in this kind of blanket of orthodox conservatism, I think, you know, it makes him less—

CARLSON:  Isn‘t one of the macro-lessons of this primary season so far we don‘t care at all about issues.  We pretend to.  If you ask the average Obama supporter, what issue convinces you Obama is better than Hillary Clinton, you would get a blank stare and a slack jaw.  They just like him better as a guy, don‘t you think?

FENN:  There‘s a certain amount of that, but I think there‘s a question of trust here.  If he‘s going out and seeking—McCain I‘m talking about now—folks that he called agents of intolerance, the Jerry Falwell types and the Pat Robertson—

CARLSON:  Falwell‘s dead and Pat Robertson‘s not endorsing.

FENN:  His sons aren‘t.  My point is—

CARLSON:  We don‘t blame the kids for the parents.

FENN:  They run Liberty Baptist.  The point I‘m making here is, if he feels like he has to continue to go right, he‘s going to sacrifice, as Gene says, some of that middle ground.  Here‘s the key thing, as a young kid I couldn‘t even vote, but I was college vice chair of the young Democrats in Minnesota in 1968.  A lot of us sat on our hands because of that ‘68 convention.  People do sit on their hands.  That was the biggest darn mistake I ever made. 

But a lot of conservatives—

CARLSON:  Because Richard Nixon was elected.  So you don‘t like Richard Nixon, so you probably—I want to play you a clip from Hillary Clinton on “60 Minutes” last night that will remind you, I think, in some sense of Richard Nixon.  Here is Hillary Clinton from “60 Minutes” over the weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  Senator Obama has never had, I don‘t think, a single negative ad ever run against him.  He‘s never been on the receiving end, even in this campaign.  It‘s been incredibly civil by any modern standards.  Until you have been through this experience, you have no idea what it‘s like.  He hasn‘t been.  He‘s never, ever had to face this.  I think that I am much better prepared and ready to withstand whatever comes my way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  When I hear her say that, I say, you may be better prepared, but you‘re also wounded by the battles you‘ve been through, which is why she‘s committed to total war. 

ROBINSON:  That‘s the plus and the minus on Hillary Clinton.  At least you think you what you‘re getting.  You‘re getting the two for the price of one again—

CARLSON:  But isn‘t it endless battle?  You‘re seeing it now.  Our enemies are evil, the media—David Shuster is evil.  Everybody who disagrees with me is evil.  That‘s who they are.  They are always that way, aren‘t they?

ROBINSON:  Are you part of the vast right wing conspiracy? 

CARLSON:  Exactly—everybody who opposes you is not only wrong, but morally flawed.  They‘re sexist.  They‘re right wing crazies.  Do you know what I mean?

ROBINSON:  She‘s a more confrontational figure than Barack Obama.

CARLSON:  You‘re a very diplomatic man.

ROBINSON:  No, actually, I like Hillary Clinton.  I think Bill Clinton‘s time is done.  I think the combination of the two is problematic for a lot of people. 

CARLSON:  Do people want that?  I sense Democrats, again, are not—I don‘t believe Democrats like Obama because of his more sophisticated policy views, though they may in the end like him for that reason.  They like him because he is not committed to total war. 

FENN:  Tucker, there‘s no question that when people are uplifting, when they talk about hope, when there is a style that goes with it that it is non-confrontational, that it is not nasty, it is important.  You know, I the whole thing which a loft us gave talked about is you can disagree without being disagreeable. 

But I will say this, that in terms of a campaign, I think her point was well taken.  I‘m not saying that he is going to be any kind of pushover in this sort of campaign.  But a lot of those conservative people out there, pundits, who say what a nice guy Barack Obama is, what a good fellow he is, they are going to be the same ones that will be tearing him to shreds in the course of a general election. 

CARLSON:  I disagree. 

(CROSS TALK)

CARLSON:  They will criticize Obama.  They will never—I can say this because I‘m around conservatives a lot.  I‘m like the only person in a the media who actually knows conservatives in real life.  I can tell you they are not going to vote for Obama.  They will disagree strenuously with his liberal positions.  They will never be animated by the kind of emotion they feel when the Clintons are around. 

ROBINSON:  What I think is crazy is you hear Democrats, you know, gravely concerned that Republicans have nice things to say about Obama.   

CARLSON:  Is that true?  You think they are worried about that?

ROBINSON:  Yes, you hear it.  And it is an example of how crazy Democrats can drive themselves when they are in danger of actually winning.  They might actually win an election. 

CARLSON:  That‘s so true. 

ROBINSON:  Those Republicans, they are in some sort of high-tech subterranean layer, the illuminati.  And they are—we had this new technique, reverse psychology.  It‘s the most amazing thing. 

CARLSON:  That‘s because Democrats—I know this from the Democrats I know.  Whenever I‘m around Democrats, I always say the same thing; you‘ve got the strongest tail wind in my lifetime at your back.  Everything is on your side.  But you can still screw it up, couldn‘t you?  They say yes. 

ROBINSON:  I tell everybody, chill out a little bit.  We are doing OK.   

FENN:  Poor Democrats.  They are convinced that the sky is falling on them in these election, because it has fallen on them.  When you are John Kerry and you are ahead by 14 points and you‘re Michael Dukakis and you‘re up by 18 and you‘re --  

CARLSON:  Look what you just said, Mike Dukakis and John Kerry.  Maybe you shouldn‘t run lame candidates.  Maybe that‘s the whole idea of Obama.  He‘s actually a pretty good candidate.  He seems like kind of a decent guy. 

Maybe those candidates win. 

FENN:  I think they are all good candidates, Tucker.  What I was saying, the Republicans are a lot better at running attacks against—

CARLSON:  No, that‘s silly.  

CARLSON:  It sounds silly, but if you look at the Swift Boat campaign, it was extraordinarily effective.  

CARLSON:  You want to hear the toughest attacks against Hillary Clinton this year have not come from conservatives, Republicans, anyone on the right, moderates, independents, John Anderson voters.  They‘ve come from liberals.  Here is the “New Republic,” it‘s new editorial, very smart, about Hillary‘s ploy to get Michigan and Florida‘s delegates seated at the convention to get their vote; quote, “neutral observers can‘t stand idly by as one campaign openly discusses stealing the nomination at the convention.  Democrats need to recognize this potential gambit for what it is, a cynical, selfish, hijacking of the Democratic process.  If Clinton is truly willing to trample so many institutions she professes to care about in the pursuit of victory, she will have proven her enemies correct.” 

I don‘t think the “Wall Street Journal” editorial page or the “New York Post” or Fox News or me could have said anything tougher than that. 

ROBINSON:  I don‘t think they could have. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

FENN:  They like Barack Obama.  No, but the whole point here is, you know, if every delegate counts, they are going to—everybody will go after it.  I don‘t think it is going to come to that.  My point is—I don‘t think it is.  I think this is all a smoke screen. 

CARLSON:  Interesting, your predictions, when does it end?  If it doesn‘t go to the convention in the delegate fight, when does this stop?

FENN:  As I said earlier, if she doesn‘t win those states on March 4th or Pennsylvania on April 22nd, I think that what‘s going to happen is—

CARLSON:  He wins.

FENN:  Yes, absolutely. 

CARLSON:  Gene, you agree?

ROBINSON:  Yes, I agree with that.  I go a little further than that, actually.  I think, you know, the reason we can‘t predict this race is that the ground keeps shifting.  And so I wonder what things are going to feel like a couple of weeks from now if Obama has—you know, he‘s just won four, is he going to win three more tomorrow?  How will the—will that have any impact?  Are we in a situation when, you know, we—we may be—

CARLSON:  We are going to have a whole round of predictions in just a minute coming up.  In the meantime, from presidential candidates to power broker, John Edwards is meeting with both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, or was going to be meeting with Barack Obama.  That meeting for the time being anyway has been delayed.  Who will Edwards back?  We‘ll talk to his former communications director coming up. 

Another day and another showdown in the super close Democratic race.  Obama and Clinton face off in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., the Chesapeake primary tomorrow.  We‘ll tell you what‘s likely to happen coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  In politics, as in life, timing is everything.  Should have bought Google.  Had the economic down turn come along six months sooner, who knows, we might be talking about a potential John Edwards presidency.  But it didn‘t.  So instead, Edwards is holding audiences with the Clinton and Obama campaigns as they go on practically bended knee asking for his blessing. 

The Obama campaign says it canceled tonight‘s scheduled meeting with Edwards due to a scheduling conference.  But they said they are trying to reschedule.  The question is, what does Edwards want in return for his endorsement?  Does he want to be king maker or is he looking for a more tangible role in a Democratic administration?  Joining us now is someone who knows.  The question is, will he tell us.  He is former Edwards communications director Chris Kofinis.  Chris, welcome. 

CHRIS KOFINIS, FMR. EDWARDS COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR:  I‘m not sure I know. 

CARLSON:  Of course you do.  What does he want? 

KOFINIS:  I don‘t speak for John Edwards anymore. 

CARLSON:  Right, that‘s why you can tell the truth.

KOFINIS:  I think when you look at, you know, the race we ran, the kind of candidate, you know, that he was during the cycle—I think he has very passionate beliefs.  Obviously, he cares very much about poverty.  He cares very much about the direction of the country.  As I said before, there are things he definitely respects and likes about Senator Obama.  His message of change was clearly, I think, very similar to our message of change. 

But he also has, I think, very strong feelings of support and respects Senator Clinton. 

CARLSON:  If that‘s true, then why did you all spend your entire campaign during this primary season attacking Hillary and not Obama? 

KOFINIS:  Well, I mean, I think part of it was a strategic choice you have to make.  The reality is you can‘t fight a two front war.  Senator Clinton was the strongest candidate.  It was a decision you have to make, in terms of, who do you have the better chance, I think, of, if you will, taking out, and then focus your energies on the other candidate. 

I mean, I think it was a strategic decision, as you just pointed out.  I think, cruelly, the economic conditions changed.  I think we would be in a different state. 

CARLSON:  That might be true.  I think there were other dynamics.  But you never know.  These things are random in that way.  He was the running mate four years ago.  He was essentially excoriated off the record by the Kerry people for not being enough of an attack dog, for being an ineffective running mate, as you know.  He was considered --  

KOFINIS:  I think a lot—I‘m not sure that‘s really a fair criticism.  It wasn‘t.  If you go back and look at the reality of how he was as vice president, I think he was a strong vice president.  I think he made his case, both in the debate and Dick Cheney—and there‘s a lot of revisionist history about it.  He was a strong candidate, not only as a vice president, but he was a strong candidate as a presidential candidate. 

CARLSON:  Do you think—my question is, do you think when he does endorse, assuming he will—is he going to endorse somebody? 

KOFINIS:  I don‘t know.  My instinct tells me yes.  That is purely—that is based on nothing but my pure instinct. 

CARLSON:  What do you get if you get the Edwards endorsement?  Do you get his money?  Can that money be transferred?  I assume it can‘t be, but maybe it can.  Will he campaign for the candidate?

KOFINIS:  I think you have to look into the context and the dynamics of this race.  What we have is a race that is probably as tight as any one in history.  You have two candidates that, based on which news outlet you look at, is either a little bit ahead or a little bit behind the delegate count.  You have Senator Obama right now I think clearly building some momentum.  He‘s going into the Potomac Primary, three contests tomorrow, in a very good position. 

You have Wisconsin after.  Then you have March 4th with three contests, two big ones, Texas and Ohio.  Senator Clinton, I think, if she goes—if she goes basically zero for the rush of the month and goes into March 4th, she basically has a make or break on March 4th.  So a Senator Edwards endorsement either for Senator Obama or Senator Hillary either builds that momentum that Senator Obama will have going into March 4th or, to some extent, maybe helps break that momentum. 

CARLSON:  Give me your 30 seconds for this.  What—you know Edwards as a man in a way a lot of us don‘t.  What‘s the way to win his heart?  If you want John Edwards to like you, do you bring flowers or chocolate?  I‘m serious.  Give us the insight into the extra added push that might help. 

KOFINIS:  I think he cares very passionately about particular issues, like poverty.  I think the way we end a race—there‘s obviously never a great way to end.  You never want to lose.  But the way he ended I think was one of the classiest ways you can ever see a candidate end a race.  He went back to New Orleans and basically said listen, I have been talking about poverty, and maybe some candidates talk these issues because they just want to for poll reasons or other reasons.  I really care about this issue. 

I think appealing to Senator Edwards on basically how you are going to lead this country, what type of president you are going to be, in a really substantive way, is the best way you win him over.  But in this kind of race, how far we still have to go is going to be—

CARLSON:  If it‘s substance, he‘s going with Hillary.  I don‘t think there is any doubt.  We will see. 

KOFINIS:  We will see.  Don‘t bet on it one way or another. 

CARLSON:  I‘m not.  I learned that lesson long ago in the New Hampshire primary this year.  Anyway, Chris Kofinis, thanks a lot for joining us. 

Next, finally someone is paying attention to us here in Washington.  Tomorrow, the Chesapeake Primary.  Two states and a semi state, a district, go to the polls.  Will they have an effect?  Who will they go for?  Predictions next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Tomorrow there are the Chesapeake Primaries, the Potomac Primaries, the Mid-Atlantic Primaries.  Basically Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C. go to the polls.  It is time for the experts to make predictions about what will happen.  Will Obama‘s roll continue?  Will Hillary hold the line?  Does Huckabee have what it takes to irritate John McCain even further? 

Joining us once again, “Washington Post” columnist Eugene Robinson and Democratic strategist Peter Fenn.  Gene, who is going to win what? 

ROBINSON:  First, I prefer Battle of the Beltway.  Nobody is with me on that. 

CARLSON:  I like it. 

ROBINSON:  Obama wins D.C.  Obama wins Maryland.  I think he wins Virginia as well.  The question is the margin in Virginia.  I think it is pretty much a sweep. 

CARLSON:  Do you agree with that, Peter?

FENN:  Yes, the Potomac Fever Primary is what I‘m calling it.  We all have good names.  I think that the only state that was at all in play a couple of weeks ago was Virginia.  I don‘t think it is.  I think it is going to be a solid victory for Obama. 

CARLSON:  The gap according to the latest Mason Dixon poll I saw—sometime those polls aren‘t fully predictive, as we know—it was about as wide in Virginia as it has been in Maryland.  It was a pretty wide gap.  Why is Hillary Clinton campaigning here in this area?  She came to Virginia to campaign.  Why bother?

FENN:  I think that if you snubbed your nose at the area, the states that are up, you come under a lot of criticism.  And look, I mean, you—as we found out so far, you really never know.  Everybody wrote her off in New Hampshire.  A Zogby Poll had the strong victory for Obama in California.  Others said—

CARLSON:  Only 13 points, lost by ten.  So let‘s see—

(CROSS TALK)

FENN:  Those kind of polls—

CARLSON:  You are absolutely right.  But then, Gene, we are starting to look—I wish I had a telestrator and a map here.  I would make the obvious point.  You win in the last couple of days Washington State, Louisiana, Nebraska, Maine—so you have the west, the north east, the south and the Midwest, that‘s like—what region are you missing? 

ROBINSON:  He‘s not missing any region. 

CARLSON:  The mid Atlantic region. 

ROBINSON:  What he is missing are those big traditionally Democratic states.  California and New York is what he is missing, and Massachusetts, one of the big ones.  He got Illinois, of course.  That‘s a traditionally Democratic state.  That‘s the part of his geographic resume that hasn‘t really been filled in yet.  You know, maybe it does not need to be.  Maybe he can win the nomination without winning one of the big states.  He is coming awfully close so far.  It certainly would seal the deal for him if he took Ohio, took Texas. 

CARLSON:  Let‘s say he loses Texas, Peter, and you could see why—I think it is likely he will lose Texas.  What—I mean, is that—does that stop his momentum? 

FENN:  I think you have to see a situation after this month, Tucker, because Wisconsin is next week, not a very tough state for Hillary Clinton.  The governor supports Obama.  He‘s got a good organization there.  I think she has got to start winning mostly all these big states then.  I mean, I don‘t think that they can split them, because the delegates count will not work very well.  And so she really had to do Ohio and Texas.  Rhode Island is not a bad state for her, working class Democrats.  That‘s on that day. 

Then, of course, it‘s a long time to Pennsylvania, another six weeks. 

We‘ve got 75 days left for—

CARLSON:  This is so bad, Gene, for the Democratic party, obviously.  It is not good.  McCain wraps it up.  They still have a battle.  Will there be changes to the process after this?  Maybe limiting the number of super delegates, making some winner take all states. 

ROBINSON:  I think there will be some changes to the process.  I think it is more of the schedule than anything else.  The schedule has not worked out quite the way people anticipated it would.  It was supposed to have a nominee by early February or something like that.  We are nowhere near having a nominee.  We have this drought in the—it has stretched out. 

CARLSON:  Can I say, I have sincerely enjoyed it.  I have loved every minute of it.  I‘m even sad this show is over right now, but it is. 

FENN:  We haven‘t predicted Huckabee yet today.  Come on. 

CARLSON:  I‘m not going to do that.  I appreciate it.  That does it for us.  Thanks for watching as always.  Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris.  Have a great night.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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